The stories of ill children are never easy to read

The holidays always remind me that I’m pretty lucky. Neither of my kids has ever been really sick. A few stitches and ear infections are about all we’ve had to deal with. Between skating, playing road hockey, Drake-inspired dance parties and multiple The Force Awakens viewing this week I’ve thought about how good things are.

During non-family, non-hockey times I’m immersed in food safety.2F987B5E00000578-3373030-Nicola_Jackson_39_donated_a_kidney_to_save_her_three_year_old_so-m-17_1450950567932

Reading about the seriousness of the issues and how illnesses happen shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who works with food – farmers, processors, food handlers (commercial or domestic).

A decade or so into things and you start seeing the same stories and mistakes repeated.

But the narrative is still emotional and shocking when you read about a kid getting sick, like three year-old Reuben Jackson. He picked up E. coli O157 during a visit to a farm, developed HUS and required a kidney transplant. The Daily Mail writes that his mother, according to  Nicola, gave him one of hers.

For Reuben, the infection triggered haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), where blood cells begin destroyed, and start to clog up the filtering system in the kidneys.

Mrs Jackson said: ‘It was a living nightmare. Reuben was in intensive care and then had to have his large intestine removed and a stoma pouch fitted.’

He spent time on dialysis, where a machine filters the blood, and regained around 25 per cent of kidney function, but earlier this year they began to fail again.

The mother-of-two was tested to see if she would be a match to donate a kidney to her son.

When Mrs Jackson received the news that she would be able to donate a kidney, she describes the moment as sheer relief.

She said: ‘I remember thinking at the last test, please let this one be okay, each positive result felt like one step closer.

Mrs Jackson spent four days in hospital, and said Reuben was instantly better after the operation.

She said: ‘It was remarkable to see him. He was instantly better.

‘He was running around the ward and was back to his old, bright self, laughing and being cheeky.’

Now, Reuben has been selected as a Little Hero by the baby and toddler swim school Water Babies as – with the agreement of doctors – he swam throughout his treatment.

‘Reuben’s time in the pool is his fun time, he just loves it,’ Mrs Jackson said.

That’s a good end to a terrifying story.

Seek and ye shall find: Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli O78:H– in family, Finland, 2009

From researchers in Finland, writing in the April edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases. Edited bits below, the complete report is available at

Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is a pathogen that causes gastroenteritis and bloody diarrhea but can lead to severe disease, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). STEC serotype O78:H– is rare among humans, and infections are often asymptomatic.

A boy born on Oct. 3, 2009, in Finland, the third child of healthy parents, was breast-fed and healthy. But by 2-weeks-old, he became irritable, started feeding poorly, and produced large volumes of watery feces with some blood. At 17-days-old he was taken to the Vaasa Central Hospital in Finland for medical care.

A blood culture showed a gram-negative rod, which was identified as E. coli. Results of a test for the O157 antigen were negative. Because the neonate was severely ill, he was referred to the University Hospital in Pirkanmaa Hospital district, and the s E. coli train isolated from his blood was forwarded to the Helsinki University Hospital Laboratory, where the invasive strain from fecal specimens of the neonate and all 4 asymptomatic family members — the mother (31 years-old), father (32 years), sister (3 years), and brother (2 years) — was confirmed by detection of Stx. The 6 strains isolated from the blood and fecal samples of the neonate and from the fecal samples of his asymptomatic parents and 2 siblings showed a sorbitol-fermenting STEC serotype O78:H– that carried the virulence genes stx1 and hlyA.

The boy recovered, but required a kidney transplantation, supplied by his father and performed in April 2011. The operation and posttransplantation period went without complications.

HUS develops in ≈5%–15% of patients <10 years of age in whom E. coli O157:H7 infection is diagnosed and occurs 2–14 days after diarrhea onset. In contrast to the O157-related HUS cases, less information is available about the non–O157-related HUS cases. Some risk factors, including an elevated leukocyte count, administration of antimicrobial drugs, use of antimotility agents, and very young age, are associated with increased risk for HUS

Ruminants, such as cattle and sheep, are the major reservoir of STEC. None of the family members, however, had contact with any farm animals, and the family had no pets. One of the family members of the neonate might have been infected with STEC by eating contaminated food, but these food items were not available for investigation. Moreover, because all the family members were asymptomatic, estimating the exact date of their infections is difficult. Secondary infections among family members most likely resulted from person-to-person transmission or from food given to the children with contaminated hands of other family members or from some other cross-contamination. Family clusters have been reported to be common. In Finland, ≈50% of STEC infections are family related.

Handwashing practices may be of greater relevance than food as a source of infection in infants and very young children because the infection might result from an infected person or animal in the home. Prolonged excretion of STEC and intimate caring of infants by family members provide a risk for cross-infections. Therefore, to limit the risk for STEC infection, thorough handwashing before touching food or young babies is particularly necessary.

Our findings demonstrate that contrary to earlier suggestions, STEC under certain conditions can invade the human bloodstream. Moreover, this study highlights the need to implement appropriate diagnostic methods for identifying the whole spectrum of STEC strains associated with HUS.

Oklahoma E. coli victim dies of complications – 8 years later

A 24-year-old Owasso, Oklahoma man has died of complications from an E. coli infection he contracted in 2002. Richard Chatfield (right, photo from News On 6, in 2008) died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to a family friend, who said it was related to a kidney transplant he underwent in 2009.

Chatfield spoke with the News On 6 in 2008 for a story about the lingering effects of E.coli. Six years after his diagnosis, he was on dialysis and had been told that without a kidney transplant he would die.

Chatfield became ill after a summer camp, but never knew the source of the infection. Chatfield was a graduate of Tulsa Community College and an Eagle Scout. He worked at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Services will be held November 13, 2010 at Faith Lutheran Church in Owasso.

E. coli outbreak hospitalizes three children in Norway

Three small children from Oslo, Akershus and Østfold are in hospital with a serious kidney disease following an E. coli infection.

Oslo University Hospital (Oslo Universitetssykehus) authorities confirm two have developed the potentially fatal Haemolytic-uremic syndrome (H.U.S.), which can also give acute kidney failure and change blood chemistry.

The Institute of Public Health (Folkehelseinstituttet/FHI) says the third child, admitted to Ullevål Hospital, has also developed H.U.S. Medical staff at both hospitals are refusing to give details about their conditions.

The Foreigner reports that no further details were available at this time.

Food at folk pavilion suspected source of E. coli; 16 sick in Canada, kidney failure in child

I don’t know what Folklorama is in Winnipeg (that’s in Canada) but food served at the Russian pavilion is the suspected source of an E. coli outbreak that has sickened 16 including one confirmed case at emergency rooms between Aug. 1 and Aug. 16.

The Winnipeg Free Press reports the parents of a two-year-old boy who suffered kidney failure want tougher food-handling rules imposed on the fair.

The boy’s mother said tests confirmed the boy had verotoxigenic E. coli and was in acute renal failure. The tot spent two nights in the pediatric intensive care unit and now has a central dialysis line in his neck and hip.

Executive director Ron Gauthier said nothing like this has ever happened before in Folklorama’s 41 years and he doesn’t know what potential changes the festival could make until the review is complete.

4-year-old UK boy needs new kidney after E. coli in Egypt

Four-year-old Bodie Elliot from Canterbury, U.K., (right, photo from Kent Online) was struck down with E.coli on a family holiday will now need a kidney transplant, his parents revealed today.

Kent Online reports that parents Vernon and Emma were left devastated after doctors told them.

The couple all had stomach upsets after eating at a hotel in the popular resort of Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt in September 2008.

When they returned home, Bodie quickly became increasingly ill and was taken to hospital.

Bodie nearly died after suffering kidney failure and to be put on dialysis and have a blood transfusion.

But he continues to need hospital care and is now being treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

A consultant there has just told the family Bodie’s kidneys are only functioning at around 50 per cent capacity.

Mr Elliot said the couple remained locked in legal dispute with the hotel over what they claim were poor food hygiene standards that led to themselves and Bodie falling ill after eating a beef lasagne from a buffet.

But in an email to the family, the hotel’s insurers deny any responsibility claiming no other guests reported feeling ill at the time.

It added that the business is regularly inspected for health and hygiene and its procedures found to be "acceptable and appropriate."

Mr Elliott said,

"I will continue to fight for compensation for my son but we also want to make people aware of what a deadly bug this is because we wouldn’t want another family and child to go through what we have."

UK toddler out of hospital after petting zoo kidney failure; 5th farm closes

Todd Furnell (right), a two-year-old boy who suffered kidney failure following an E.coli outbreak at a petting farm was discharged from hospital after two weeks. Unfortunately his brother was still on a drip and too unwell to be released.

The Health Protection Agency said yesterday
that a fifth farm has partially closed after identifying a further five cases of E. coli O157 in people who had visited Big Sheep and Little Cow Farm.

The face of E. coli O157

Three-year-old Abigail Hennessey, right, is recovering from an E. coli O157 outbreak in Wales that struck at least four people, including a 32-year-old librarian and new mother who remains in a medically induced coma after suffering kidney damage as a result of the infection.

Abigail’s grandfather, Ronald Hennessey, of Gresford, said that thanks to superb medical treatment from the staff at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, Abigail was now steadily improving.

“It is great to know she is making excellent progress. Day by day she is getting better and stronger in her recovery.”

Mr Hennessey said the situation was in stark contrast to last week when Abigail fell seriously ill after contracting E.coli.

“Then it was almost as if she was in a kind of trance. She was just staring right ahead. But now she is up talking and laughing. I don’t know when she will be coming home. I would very much like to thank Alder Hey for its tremendous work. They have been magnificent.”